Coffee Bike’s Origins
One fine day in December 2005, Tom Ritchey was thrown a challenge by one of his close friends to visit and experience Rwanda firsthand. Ritchey took up the challenge and decided to experience the country of one thousand hills on his bicycle. When he did that, Tom not only found Rwanda’s landscape to be extremely beautiful, but its people and their hope filled hearts to be even more compelling!
Tom rode on his bicycle through the hilly countryside areas of Rwanda and firsthand witnessed the raw cycling talent which existed in the country, devoid of any modern cycling technology which was available in abundance to even an average cycling enthusiast back in the United States of America. Tom Ritchey thought that building a Rwandan national cycling team would bring a lot of national pride and hope to the country (and he was right!). During the next few months, Tom started formalizing a plan which eventually came to be known as Project Rwanda. Later on he asked Jared Miller, his close friend to come to Rwanda for exploring the possibilities of putting together a kind of cycling event which could put Rwanda on the world map as a cycling, tourism and business destination.
In September 2006, Tom Ritchey went on to organize the first ever edition of Wooden Bike Classic in Rwanda (planned as an annual event). It was held in the Karongi stadium of Rwanda and had over 3000 Rwandan nationals filling the stadium, and lined up across the streets for watching the country’s first-ever single speed colonial bike, wooden bike and mountain bike race.
Later on, Ritchey asked Alex Stieda, the Tour De France stage winner from North America, and Jock Boyer, the cycling pioneer to race with him at an event for celebrating the innovation of wooden bikes and what they meant to him. Post that event Tom asked for Boyer’s assistance in locating and cultivating the cycling talent existing in the country, and then turning it into Team Rwanda.
It was at this event only that Tom Ritchey decided that he wanted to do more for the people of Rwanda. It was his deep desire of changing the lives of every common Rwandan for good that led to creation of Coffee Bike or Cargo Bike project. He was instrumental in creation of Coffee Bikes which could carry heavy loads and help Rwandans, especially the coffee bean farmers of the country, living in the rural areas in quick and efficient transportation of their crops to the washing stations. He collaborated with several reputed NGOs for distribution of around 4000 coffee bikes via grants and micro-finance programs.